Fanny Packs Are Not an Option

March 10, 2010

When I provide examples, nothing feels finished until I’ve provided three of them. Thus, I was horrified (ah, Hyperbole, handmaiden of the lesser gods) to read my own post, “Driving Me Crazy: A Short Trip,” and realize that I had offered a paltry two examples of things that frazzle my mind. A pair. What was I thinking? Since I have a policy of not editing once I’ve posted—beyond correcting an egregious spelling or mechanical error—I will share number three here. It’s a doozy.

It’s ladyclothes. Ladyclothes make me nuts. First of all, I have long been a follower of the Fred Astaire school of fashion. This means that I like men’s clothing and wear it often, especially the vintage stuff. I can. It’s comfortable and sturdy and comes in colors and patterns I like. And this brings up a separate and equally longstanding gripe of mine: if I can wear men’s clothing without undue comment from others, why can’t men don ladywear if they’d like to? I don’t really understand why they’d like to since they will be sorry when they find out they don’t have any pockets, but that will be their problem.

Secondly, it’s not just the flimsy pasteled froofrooiness of ladyclothes I find unappealing, it’s the paucity of pockets that offends me the most. When I wear a man’s pants, shirt, and jacket, I have as many as eleven pockets to hold my pen, my ever-present 3×5 cards, my phone, Kleenex®, gum, and wallet. When I wear ladyclothes the number of pockets is usually zero, unless it’s those faux things that either don’t open or are perhaps only an inch deep. Fellows, just imagine if you went to stick your hands in your pants pockets and found that you could only get the tips of your fingers in. What’s the point?

And yes, I understand why there’s a lack of pocketry in garb designed for the ladies. It’s so the unsightly bumps and bulges of pocketed stuff won’t interfere with the lovely figure that our ladyclothes are designed to show off so that we women can attract the attention of whomever we might wish to have oogling us. Blech! Admittedly, I’m happily married and old enough to need to attract attention with my brain and not my body, but I have never been a cleavage kind of gal. I’ve always gone for comfort and convenience first. Surely Katherine Hepburn and I are not alone in this.

It has not escaped my attention that purses are sometimes called pocketbooks. This is not because they are books to go into your pockets, ladies, since you will not have any pockets to put your books into. It is probably because they are meant to provide you with portable pocket space. Handbags, as our purses and pocketbooks are also known, are not the answer to the pocket problem.

They are a millstone worn around the neck, on the shoulder or arm, or carried in the hand, diminishing freedom of movement and heightening anxiety. They are pretty, glittery, colorfully embellished, and often very expensive millstones designed to make us the keeper of family necessities. (Mom or honey, can you put my baseball, gummi bears, lug wrench, diecast model of the White House, unfinished bottle of Mountain Dew®, scissors, alarm clock, stuffed armadillo, after dinner mints, beef jerky in your purse?) Many of them are now interchangeable in size and dimension with diaper bags and I’m not sure what that means, but I know that it must have some significance.

When I teach, a lack of pockets is especially irritating. I don’t carry a purse to class with me. I need a pen. I might even want to have my phone with me to snap quick pictures or in case someone calls to let me know s/he isn’t coming or has been in an accident and will be late, as happened yesterday. Instead, my phone is sitting in the office where I can’t possibly feel the vibrations of the incoming.

The British writer, G.K. Chesterton said that he once planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in his pocket, further noting, “I found it would be too long, and the age of the great epics is past.” And there’s another reason I love pockets, especially on jackets; they’re like miniature archeological digs from which I can excavate my past. Here’s what I found in the jacket I had on yesterday:

Two ticket stubs for The Reader, March 8, 2009
A piece of my favorite gum, Orbit Mint Mojito
A receipt from Pirate’s Plunder in Seattle where I purchased two robot posters and a book of Beastly Rhymes (with a neon green fur cover)
A round trip ticket for a Seattle Monorail
A receipt for a pair of black and white earrings
Napkins. There are always napkins. Once a mother, always a mother.
A pair of ticket stubs for State of Play in Portland, Oregon, April 17, 2009
A toothpick
A fortune cookie fortune: “ A friendship will renew itself.”
Fourteen cents
A broken rhinestone earring I picked up off the sidewalk
Three paper clips
Four 3×5 cards—one with a quotation I’ve written down: “ When I look down, I miss all the good stuff. When I look up, I just trip over things. • Ani Difranco
A pen
A takeout menu for Mexico City Tapas y Tacos in Seattle. Their Veracruz tacos were yummy: slow roasted pork with grilled fresh pineapple, onions and peppers.

There might be a poem there, but not now. The clever person looking at this list, however, might learn some things about me.

What’s in your pockets—or your pocketbook—and what would someone learn about you from what you carry? This is another interesting way to get to know a study group.

Handy as a pocket on a shirt.
• American proverb



  1. (in my purse)
    Liquid tylenol – a mother
    Dutch Bros. and Human Bean coffee card – coffee lover
    graham cracker crumbs/tootsie pop wrapper – mother
    calculator – perfectionist who has to compare and calculate prices before buying
    piles of papers – not very organized
    batteries – always trying to be prepared for when the camera runs out of batteries
    movie stubs – love to go to the theater
    gas and fast food receipts – on the go a lot
    fingernail clippers – you just never know when your going to need them

  2. As another mother, I always have Kleenex® or napkins or pieces of paper towel stashed in all my pockets and purses. You never know when there will be a nose to be wiped or a mess to be cleaned up. And my children are grown! W-OZ

  3. True, I never have enough pockets when teaching, but that’t when I always have the most interesting finds! I regularly carry a purse, so here’s my list:
    the regulars-phone, wallet, pen, tissues, lip balm
    specials- cold medicine and cough drops (just getting over a cold), gum wrappers, sticky notes and pens (for class),yesterday’s mail, hand sanitizer (that’s actually a regular since becoming a mom)
    This lets you know a little bit about me, but mostly that I don’t like to carry a lot of extra stuff. I do not like clutter!

  4. Allergy pills and an Alka Selzer Gold. Swiss Army knife. Mini wine opener. $100 dollar bill wrapped up and hidden in a recess for emergencies. Lots of pencils and pens and a sticky note block. Concert tickets. (already attended) Hair clips. I like having dark chocolate but seem to be out at the moment. Kleenex in a pattern. (Mothers always do) Gum for when I get sleepy while driving. I don’t what that says about me but I think I’m ready for anything!

  5. Hmmmm…lets see shall we.
    Receipts, receipts, receipts …mostly to Safeway.
    Gum (both in the wrapper, out of the wrapper and smooched around a pink baby pacifier)
    Check book & Check book holder (however check book is not in the holder)
    Chap stick, Lipstick, Lip-gloss
    Panther Paws (school reward’s we give out to students)
    Human Bean Coffee card (just need one more punch)
    Dutch Bros. Coffee card (It’s full! Free one next time)
    Credit Cards
    Baby Spoon
    Travel size pack of wipes

  6. I was interested in the title of this post…as one who finds the fanny pack to be one of fashion’s greatest faux pas…2nd only to VPL (visible panty line…hence my other rant response!).

    My purse habit is an expensive one and one that I have managed to keep under control in the last 2 years. I am a Coach girl and have several…to meet the needs of almost any ensemble! Today I have two…a small black one hidden in a larger multi-colored striped tote! The tote is necessary because the smaller purse doesn’t have room for a book and I’m on vacation, therefore needing pleasure reading material handy at all times! The smaller purse includes a matching black mini-skinny (wallet-esque) with cash, cards, and coffee cards, Buxom lipgloss (in multiple shades), pens of different shades and ink types, gum (as necessary as napkins for my 9 year old), and hair ponies – more of a must-have since spending time driving my mother’s convertible! Usually there are crumpled old receipts, but I just cleaned it out before leaving on vacation!

  7. I emptied my pockets and I have:

    A keychain with keys to my truck, North Bend High School gymnasium, my shop, the box to the back of my truck. My key chain has a carved tip of a walrus tusk on it

    Wallet with my license, debit card, library card, health insurance card, longshoreman card, pictures of my wife and kids, hunting and fishing license, Bi-mart card and social security card and $43.00

    37 cents in change

    Nothing else

    This is all I ever carry. I am pretty simple and I like it that way. Too much stuff gets in the way.

  8. A typical survey of my purse would include:
    wallet, keys, cell phone, pocket calendar, pens, pencils, hair clips, dental floss, nail file, gum, lip gloss, an assortment of Tylenol, Advil and Alleve, cough drops, band aids, sunglasses.

    If my purse is not going with me then in my pockets would be my essentials:
    lip gloss, cell phone and (if needed)keys/cash/ID

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